STEVE INSKEEP, host
Iraq's government is claiming some hopeful news after a week of fighting. Iraqi troops have battled Shiite Muslim militias in two big cities, Baghdad and Basra, but now a militia leader has ordered a cease-fire. Moqtada al-Sadr told his forces to get off the streets.
But that declaration sounds unimpressive to a secular Shiite member of Iraq's parliament. Kassim Daood has also been listening to the sounds of Baghdad.
Mr. KASSIM DAOOD (Member of Parliament, Iraq): This morning, we had some mortar rockets on the Green Zone. This shows that still the cease-fire is fragile and, really, I have no confidence that this will continue for a certain period.
INSKEEP: I do want to ask, though, supporters of Prime Minister Maliki have said, yes, the government has been very slow to act, very slow to go after militias. But then they've given Prime Minister Maliki credit because, at least in this instance, he did send in the troops and try to get control of a major Iraqi city. Does he deserve credit?
Mr. DAOOD: Well, to be honest with you, I cannot define it in this way. Good leaders always should select the proper time, making good preparation for any military operation. But this operation, which was implemented last week, surprising everybody. Even the Iraqi parliament didn't get any notice about this operation.
This doesn't reflect that we have a real government running the country.
INSKEEP: Is it possible that it could all work out now that one of the militia leaders, Moqtada al-Sadr, has called for a cease-fire?
Mr. DAOOD: You know, most of his supporters, probably they may follow him. But definitely, there are many (unintelligible) Mahdi army or Sadrist movement, are not necessary can obey or follow his orders.
INSKEEP: This leads to a couple of other questions. Do you believe that whatever the shortcomings have been, that Iraq's government is any closer to being in control of this situation than it was a week ago when the fighting started?
Mr. DAOOD: Well, I have no faith at all, probably before 11 months ago, when the prime minister failed to fill the vacancies in his government. The government didn't really engage in a serious negotiation with the different political blocs. There are many signals showing that this government cannot deliver.
INSKEEP: And the other question is, do you believe that Iraq security forces have shown that they are any more ready to stand on their own in defense of the government?
Mr. DAOOD: Unfortunately not. As you know, we have many stories about the obeying orders and the realities and these things, and this is the case. I mean, I have no confidence that our security forces will belong to the nation, not without a real political party.
INSKEEP: Given the developments of the last few days, do you think it would be a mistake for the U.S. to go ahead with its planned withdrawal of some U.S. forces over the next several months?
Mr. DAOOD: One for sure. As we noticed last week, the instability, the loss of order, this is a very remarkable indication that we need the forces to be in Iraq, at least within this number, until we build our security forces.
INSKEEP: Kassim Daood is a secular Shiite member of Iraq's parliament. Thank you for your time, sir.
Mr. DAOOD: You're welcome.
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